BOSTON — Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask didn’t play up to his normal standard last season, but his performance through three games of the 2016-17 campaign suggests he’s returning to the elite form we’ve seen from him throughout most of his NHL career.
Rask stopped 28 of 29 shots in Boston’s 2-1 win over the New Jersey Devils in Thursday night’s home opener at TD Garden. The only goal he allowed came on a deflection off B’s defenseman Brandon Carlo’s skate during a New Jersey power play.
The former Vezina Trophy winner remains unbeaten at 3-0-0, and he’s stopped 90 of 95 shots for an impressive .947 save percentage. Rask saved 34 of 35 shots in his previous start Monday night against the Winnipeg Jets.
The Bruins have a young blue line and a lot of new faces on the roster overall, so more than ever, they need stability at the most important position. Rask, so far, has provided that.
Yes, it’s only three games, but Rask has a long history of consistently strong play.
— Patrice Bergeron returned to the lineup after missing the first three games with an injury, and it seemed like he had never left. The B’s center scored the game-winning goal with 1:15 remaining in the third period to complete Boston’s third comeback win of the season.
He also faced the Devils’ top line for the majority of his even-strength ice time, and that included superstar left winger Taylor Hall. Bergeron won the matchup.
“That?s what (Bergeron has) always been — a clutch player for us,” Bruins head coach Claude Julien said.
— Brad Marchand was rewarded with a new contract in September after scoring a career-high 37 goals last season. He also dominated the 2016 World Cup of Hockey for Team Canada last month, and the veteran winger has carried that success into the Bruins’ regular season.
Marchand is tied for the league lead with six assists and nine points after scoring a third-period goal and earning a helper on Bergeron’s game-winner.
“I think there’s times where confidence level is high. Right now, I do feel good,” Marchand said. “I just feel I have a step ahead of where I normally am coming into the season. I think a lot of that is attributed to the World Cup (of Hockey). … I kind of feel like I’m in midseason form when, most seasons, it takes 10 to 12 games to feel that way.”
— David Pastrnak has impressive offensive skill, but the 20-year-old forward has become a lot stronger since his 2014-15 rookie season. That was evident in the build up to Bergeron’s goal when Pastrnak won a puck battle along the end boards that maintained possession for the Bruins in the Devils’ zone.
“He was a kid when he started here. He was 18 years old,” Marchand said of his linemate, Pastrnak. “He needed that time to build his strength and speed, and he’s done that. He’s worked hard in the summers and come back bigger and stronger. He’s able to fend guys off. He doesn’t lose puck battles on the walls and in the corners.”
Pastrnak picked up an assist on that goal for his efforts, giving him seven points (four goals, three assists) in four games.
— One of the reasons why the Bruins didn’t qualify for the postseason last season was a less-than-stellar home record. The B’s had the third-worst home record in the Eastern Conference at 17-18-6 — only the Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres were worse.
Starting the new season with a win at home was a step in the right direction for a Bruins team that must improve at TD Garden to end its two-year playoff drought.
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images